Fresno State signed 13 players to national letters of intent on Wednesday, the start of the early signing period, filling needs at wideout, tight end, secondary and linebacker positions.
Linebacker is perhaps the glaring need, a group that could take another big hit if Jeff Allison decides to take an early entry into the NFL Draft after big sophomore and junior seasons. It already is losing seniors George Helmuth and James Bailey, who ranked second and fifth on the team in tackles with 87 and 80.
Coach Jeff Tedford said Fresno State has filed paperwork to get an evaluation for Allison from the NFL College Advisory Committee, but a decision has yet to be made.
“I totally support him in going through that process,” said Tedford, 22-6 in two seasons at his alma mater. “As we gather more information, Jeff is a pretty level-headed guy as far a gathering information and educating himself on where he stands and then I’m sure at some point we’ll sit down and talk about what the best thing for him is.
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“He obviously has done a lot of things here. We value him as a person, as a player, as a leader on this team. But as the days and weeks come ahead, that decision will be made.”
If Allison returns, the Bulldogs will have the defensive player of the year in the Mountain West Conference in the middle of their defense, a sideline-to-sideline player who has racked up 132 and 126 tackles over the past two seasons.
If Allison opts to head to the NFL, the Bulldogs did get some potential answers in that group of 13 recruits that signed during the early period in Kyvin Carroll (Benton, Ark.), Levelle Bailey (Burbank-Sacramento) and Devonta Bridges (Carter-Rialto).
Carroll fits best as a middle linebacker. Bridges, who was a target late for several schools including at least one from the Pac-12, could play inside or out.
Bailey likely fits best as an outside linebacker.
“I don’t know where we’re going to play them yet,” Tedford said. “We’ll get them here and we’ll evaluate them. In our linebacking corps ... the guy that’s the backup on the depth chart doesn’t necessarily go in - we have to find out who those guys are.”
The Bulldogs added Dorrzel Hicks late last season, bringing in a bigger body to back up Allison. Justin Rice, who was redshirted after playing in the first four games of the season so that he would have two more years of eligibility, also can play the middle linebacker position, as well as outside.
Arron Mosby was moved to linebacker from safety during the season, playing the Sam position behind Bailey, but can play both outside spots.
Freshman Sherwin King, a Sunnyside High grad, was the No. 2 behind Helmuth at the Will position. The Bulldogs also have Richard Cage, David Tate (an Edison High grad who returned from UNLV) and Kilifi Leaaetoa.
The Bulldogs’ early signings were focused on those four positions. It included four wideouts in Jalen Cropper (Buchanan), Jamal Glaspie (Culver City), Josh Kelly (San Joaquin Memorial) and Keric Wheatfall (Blinn College in Texas), two tight ends in Raymond Pauwels (Glendale, Ariz., College) and Juan Rodriguez (Butte College) and two cornerbacks in Randy Jordan (Tulare Union) and Myles Martin (Vista Murrieta) and two safeties Deven Jarvis (Bishop Amat-La Puente) and Reggie Strong (Orange Lutheran).
Pauwels and Rodriguez are expected to enroll at Fresno State for the spring semester and participate in spring football.
At quarterback, the Bulldogs signed Hunter Raquet last summer from Monterey Peninsula College; Raquet was going to return to JC, but with four years to play three seasons at Fresno State came in early to delve into the Bulldogs’ offense.
Fresno State does still have scholarships available that the Bulldogs will take into the traditional signing period in February, with one or two slated for offensive linemen.
A year ago, the Bulldogs signed most of the 2018 class in the early period.
There’s probably three to four more spots,” Tedford said. “I’m really interested to see the process with this, because last year we signed all of our guys pretty much on the early signing date and it being so new, the early signing date, that you find that there’s a whole new pool of players available at that time.
“People either get their guys or somebody was maybe a Plan B guy or something like that at other schools and then all of a sudden they get their top guy. It’s kind of interesting. I’m really looking forward to evaluating the list as we go forward. Obviously, we have guys who we have been on for a while that haven’t signed yet.”
The Bulldogs will have more of an opportunity to get recruits on campus in January – for the early period, they had just one weekend between winning the Mountain West Conference championship with a 19-16 overtime victory at Boise State and departing for the Las Vegas Bowl where they beat Arizona State 31-20.
“I’m excited to go through January and reevaluate everybody and see who is available, what the pool of players are, as well as the guys that we’ve already been on,” Tedford said.
“It’s nice to have options and then there are grad transfers and so on and so forth, so to have one in your back pocket in case something happens is always nice to have that ability to do that.”